Matthew 5 1-12
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the
truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all
heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
This account would be more accurately named “The Sermon on the Plain,” since he has Jesus deliver it standing “on a level place.”
The Gospel writer wants to preserve the mountain as a place of retreat to experience prayer, vision, and guidance. The Sermon follows a series of healings by Jesus. By contrast, while Matthew states that Jesus has performed many healings, the Sermon on the Mount is the first act of Jesus’ public ministry that Matthew describes in detail. For Matthew, teaching is primary in Jesus’ overall ministry.
Matthew wants his readers to view the Sermon on the Mount as a definitive interpretation of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) that Moses received on Mount Sinai. Jesus does not cancel the Mosaic Law by substituting a new legal code. For Matthew, Jesus fulfills Torah by providing its proper interpretation.
The Sermon on the Mount is not the historic record of a great speech, nor is it a series of philosophical abstractions. It is a code of behavior for shaping a community of faith in ways that call conventional wisdom into question, subvert the status quo, and intend eventually to re-shape it. The goal is not social disorder but the eventual formation of a new community.
It will not be a community of fans, but of friends and disciples.